Apologies for the poor quality of the images. I had captured my own, or at least, so I thought. None of my footage was usable, so I had to take these images from Nintendo’s own gallery.
Super Mario World was the first 2D Mario game I ever got into contact with after being introduced to the franchise with Super Mario 64. For some reason, I have pretty much had every Nintendo handheld system, even though I’ve never enjoyed gaming on them much. I had barely any games for any of them, but one I always returned to was the port of Super Mario World on my GBA.
Can’t a man have his lunch in peace??
Following the adventure of Super Mario Bros. 3, our two beloved plumbers and Princess Peach decided to go on vacation for a while. However, while the brothers were away for a bit, the princess was once again seized by Bowser and his minions. Furthermore, they learn that the dinosaur inhabitants of the island have been imprisoned in eggs and need saving.
The game once again places players in a large map where the player moves around to enter various levels. The island is more restrictive than Super Mario Bros. 3 was in terms of choosing your paths, but it contains a wide variety of secrets that lead to bonus levels, shortcuts, warp points, and even mandatory triggers that may elude players who simply try to keep finishing stages.
As was to be expected, Super Mario World is another 2D platformer and one that plays most similarly to the third entry in the series. The basic controls are once again excellent with Mario responding exactly as you’d expect every time. The level design is also great and relies on fun challenges and novel concepts, instead of simply pushing longer, harder jumps. Like the last game, many levels feel more like showcases for novel ideas, like one where you ride moving platforms while dodging fuzzies. The levels in World are generally better than any predecessor, but it does recycle some ideas from older entries and stages like the Haunted Houses feature annoying puzzles.
Entirely new is Yoshi, Mario’s now famous dinosaur pal. Blocks that usually yield power-ups can also make an egg appear, which will then spawn Yoshi. Players can ride around on him, consume enemies with his tongue, and do other nifty stuff like spitting fireballs if he eats the right stuff. Yoshi also acts as a free extra-hit on top of the power-ups, after which he’ll start running around at top speed until players hop on again or Yoshi plummets into a hole. He is a great companion that has lots of utility and feels like a major addition to the game. The fact Yoshi runs away after taking damage also adds a risk versus reward factor, as you have to make a snap decision about whether you want to give chase or take your losses.
The game features the usual list of power-ups: mushrooms, fire flowers, power stars, and a cape that replaces the Super Leaf for flight. The manual and advertising really push the cape, but I don’t really see what it adds over the leaf besides not angering PETA. The game also saves a power-up, meaning that if you collect any when you’re already equipped, then it will be stored and dropped when you take damage. To offset this, the game does have fewer power-ups in total and completely lacks the suits, which is a bit of a bummer.
Still, Super Mario World remains my favorite 2D Mario game to replay because Yoshi adds so much and is miles better than just adding some new, gimmicky power-up. The levels are also solid and the controls add new functions like a spin-jump to break blocks with. I do dislike the puzzle levels and the secrets in the map can leave you replaying stages many times, but these are stages I very much don’t mind replaying.
Gameplay score: 8.5/10
Setting the bar high
Super Mario World was a launch title for Nintendo’s Super Famicom in all regions and would immediately show off what the system could do. Mario and Luigi explore colorful worlds with many moving parts and enemies, all of which render without any slowdown or flickering graphics. Beautiful backgrounds, sprites with many different poses, and great tilesets, Super Mario World has it all.
Setting the entire game on an island that players explore more of the further they get was a great decision. It’s a memorable map with many landmarks on it, but the theming isn’t as strong as it was in Super Mario Bros. 3. and, as stated before, the game does recycle ideas a lot. Anytime I see one of those Haunted Houses come up or another cave level I just have to put the game down for a while.
Presentation score: 9/10
Gambling not allowed
A downside to that fancy world map is that it doesn’t feel as lively as the one from Super Mario Bros. 3. Gone are the airships that flew between spots and also gone are the various mini-games and bonus stages. World does have some distractions in the levels themselves, but it would have been nice to see these return.
The game does feature some interesting secret content and post-game challenges, including a number of super-hard levels with a strange reward at the end of them. The die-hard fans will find these especially satisfying and it’s not a bother if you just want to defeat Bowser and move on with your life either.
Extras score: 8/10
The Mario trilogy was the face of the NES and chronicled the steady improvement in graphics and gameplay complexity achieved on that system. Super Mario World is more than a worthy continuation of the series, but one that also called up questions about whether it was time for the company mascot to diversify a bit. The game is a great platformer, arguably the best in many aspects of the series thus far, yet it also struggles with keeping up originality and can feel gimmicky in many places. While I like it a lot, I also have to admit it can be the most frustrating game in the 2D Mario line-up with its puzzle stages and auto-scrollers.